The Very Notable But Controversial Maxwell Equations

It took two decades for the theory stemming from the equations to be accepted by the scientific community.
Loukia Papadopoulos

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You may not have heard of James Clerk Maxwell but you have certainly heard of his work: the Maxwell equations. These four equations have put Maxwell on the map as one of the greatest theoretical physicists of the 19th century.

As ingenious as these equations are, they were actually quite controversial at the time of their development because they elegantly unified the fields of electromagnetism and optics upending the traditional Newtonian conception of the world, which was based on particle interactions.

It should be noted that in order to come up with these equations, Maxwell had to bring together the work that had been done by physicists such as Oersted, Coulomb, Gauss, and Faraday, and add his own science. They led to Maxwell suggesting in 1865 that visible light is an electromagnetic wave.

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This concept would not be accepted until two decades later, in 1886 when German physicist Heinrich Hertz generated electromagnetic waves in a laboratory. Talk about being ahead of your time!

What were these four equations and how did they lead Maxwell to understand what visible light actually was? We answer these questions and more in our video.

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